As a guitarist, you’ll already be aware of the fact that the pickup you choose for your guitar is one of the most important elements you need to invest in. If you’re choosing a low-grade pickup, you’re going to be producing a low-grade sound.
With the quality of your pickup to the side, there is also an extensive range of pickups available that can help you to create different kinds of sound. This means you’ll be able to explore many different genres accurately and vary your sound from the factory default.
Today, we’re going to be drawing our attention to PAF Humbucker pickups. This stands for ‘patent applied for’ and was the title given to the early humbucker pickups that were designed for Gibson back in the 1950s by Seth Lover.
These pickups went on to be used between the years of 1955 and 1962, one of the most iconic time periods in the music industry. It pioneered the way sound was created and definitely played a key role for many bands, musicians and the direction of audio at the time.
While trying to get an original PAF pickup will set you back a fair amount and will be incredibly difficult to find, there are many pickups available today that can help you replicate that legendary sound.
Known for their warm sounding tones, outstanding clarity and the ability to mesmerize an audience, we’ve searched high and low, streamlining our findings so we can show you the best. So, without further ado, here are our top four PAF Humbucker pickups that you’re going to love.
Seymour Duncan Antiquity Humbucker Pickup (Bridge Position)
No pickup best-of list would be complete without a mention of Seymour Duncan. These manufacturers are one of the most superior quality audio specialists in the modern-day industry, priding themselves on providing outstanding quality products at an affordable price.
This Antiquity Humbucker Pickup displays this perfectly. This neck/bridge position pickup is a great sounding pickup that’s sure to bring on nostalgia, taking you back to the peak of the 50s. This particular model has been designed using the traditional standards that the originals were made to, ensuring you’ll be able to replicate that iconic sound.
However, these pickups are wound a little hotter and a bit more balanced than the originals, but that’s simply just to compensate for their position on your guitar. These pickups are also not wax-potted, but this only helps you to retain that original and authentic sound that we’ve all grown to love.
This pickup is easy to install into your guitar thanks to the front-tapered mounting ring, complete with screws (and screw holes), so you can ensure the perfect fit. The device comes with a nickel-plated cover and poles and has even been styled in a way that makes it look like an original pickup that’s been played continuously for the last 40 years!
Every one of these Antiquity pickups has been designed and crafted by hand. The proof of this can be found on every magnet and bottom plate which has been signed by the person who made it. Seymour Duncan takes the utmost care and respect for their products, so much so that they’ll even put their names on it because they’re that proud of them.
All in all, this is one of the most feature-rich PAF humbucker pickups out there, as well as being one of the most affordable, which makes this a great choice when you’re looking to upgrade your own guitar.
- Incredible easy to install bridge pickup
- Hand-made with the superior care and precision
- Hot-wound for authentic replication of original PAF sound
- Styled with nickel plates to hold an original PAF aesthetic
DiMarzio DP223 PAF 36th Anniversary Bridge Pickup
If you’re looking for an affordable PAF pickup that’s suitable for all budgets yet doesn’t compromise when it comes to duplicating that original PAF humbucker sound, DiMarzio is your best bet. This toned pickup is suitable for all kinds of guitar, including 24-3/4” scale guitars, as well as any guitar with a trem-equipped bolt-on bridge.
This pickup is slightly mid-heavy (with the tone guide reading Treble: 5, Mid: 6.5, and Bass: 6), which is ideal for taking you, your band and your audience back to the 50s where this era of music all began.
The DP223 is proud of the warm and inviting sound that it produces, which made possible thanks to its soft magnetic field, rich tones and an incredibly clear and crisp sound, which is much unlike low-grade pickups in a similar price range.
This specific model also maintains its performance when you’re playing clean and switch it up into a distorted style of play. If you’re a fan of pick attacking, this particular pickup will serve you well.
However, what really sets these pickups apart from the rest is the fact that they are not simply clones that are trying to replicate the original sound. Since this is the 36th Anniversary edition, these models contain the exact patented technology that was used in the original Seth Lover designs.
This is combined with the technology that was implemented into Larry DiMarzio’s personal Gibson Les Paul, all coming together to provide you with the ability to create a sound that’s out of this world.
As one of the most affordable devices on this list, as well as being one of the most capable, you simply can’t go wrong when you’re buying a DiMarzio Bridge PAF pickup.
- Capable of supporting both clean and distorted styles of play
- Anniversary edition contains patented, original PAF technology
- Produces an incredibly rich, warm, and clarity-filled sound
- Compatible with an extensive range of guitar models
- Might sound a little punchier than the original PAF sound to some musicians
Gibson 57 Classic Plus Humbucker Nickel Cover
Of course, it would be rude not to go back to the iconic company that originally introduced PAF pickups to the world and not see what they have on offer today. From Gibson themselves, the 57 Classic Plus is a pickup that’s simply going to blow you and your audience away.
While this may be the most expensive pickup on this list, it’s also one of the highest performing, thanks to the introduction of the Special Alnico II Magnet that produces such a captivating sound that’s clear, rich, fulfilling, and utterly mesmerizing.
This has been made possible thanks to the vintage-styled enamel-coated wire that wraps around the magnet, ultimately complimented by the nickel-plated design sound the pole pieces and slugs. All these features come together to provide you with this crisp sound that you simply won’t be able to achieve with this model’s more affordable counterparts.
This level of quality simply continues thanks to the highly durable maple spacers, helping you to achieve, as the title suggests, a genuine 57s sound that the original PAF pickups dominated at the time.
There’s a wealth of modern-day technology jammed into these pickups. For example, it’s designed to help work with your overdrive tube amps that help you keep your saturation levels smooth and clean, minimizing the risk of overpowering.
In short, if you’re searching for that ideal pickup that will help you duplicate that original 50s PAF sound like no other pickup can achieve, this is the pickup that should top your list.
- Closest sounding pickup to the original 50s PAF humbuckers
- Performs well when distorting or overdriving
- Incredibly high-quality build with nickel-plated covers and maple spacers
- Outstanding sound quality thanks to the Special Alnico magnet and enamel-coated wire
- A professional-budget price tag
- Just one pickup per set
Blizzard of 59 – Vintage Humbucker Set (Nickel)
Finally, to finish off our list of best PAF pickups, we’ve chosen this highly affordable humbucker pickup set that can help you to upgrade your current guitar completely, or for just one pickup that can add a touch of original PAF sound.
This two-piece set comes with pickups designed to fit into any installation area on your guitar, producing 7.3k in the neck, or 8.1k in the bridge. The magnets here are wound using 42-gauge plain enamel wire to help you produce an awe-inspiring sound with absolute clarity in every note.
The level of performance you get with these pickups is mind-blowing when you consider the affordable price tag. Even connecting your pickups to your guitar use vintage-braided shielded lead wire, guaranteeing the highest possible quality every time you play.
While this model only comes with 1.97mm pole spacings so it can only fit a certain type of guitar by default, you may be able to make them work by making slight alterations to the body of your guitar, perhaps using a professional in your local music store.
Since these models create a warm, rich and relatively impressive range of tones across all frequencies, you can trust that this is a pickup that won’t let you down.
- Two pickups included per set for the opportunity to upgrade your guitar completely
- Extremely affordable pickup set
- Alnico II magnets for superior sound quality
- Vacuum wax potted to retain quality sound
- Only fits certain guitars (1.97mm pole spacing) without modification
- Lowest PAF replication level compared with other pickups on this list
And there we have it! As you can see, there are a ton of options out there when you’re trying to find the perfect PAF pickups for your guitar. By considering your budget and the level of sound duplication you want, any of the four pickups listed above will be ideal when it comes to upgrading your guitar.